Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Lawyers have canned a tell-all book on life inside Australia's most powerful evangelical church, writes Jennifer Sexton.
The publishing house that gave Chris Masters' book detailing the sexuality of talkback host Alan Jones a run after ABC Books pulled out has lost its nerve. It has dumped an exposť about the happy-clapping church Hillsong.
Allen & Unwin was to next week print ex-evangelical Tanya Levin's inside story of life within the nation's fastest growing and spunkiest congregation.
Allen & Unwin pulled the plug just a week after promoting on its website that People in Glass Houses tells how "a small Assemblies of God church in a suburban school hall became a multimillion-dollar tax-free enterprise, a cult and a powerful force in Australia".
Pastor Brian Houston and his perky wife Bobbie preside over Hillsong, which attracts about 19,000 Pentecostals a week to its two Sydney campuses and has been visited by the likes of John Howard, Peter Costello and Bob Carr.
Here is a taste from the manuscript of Levin's view of the all-singing, all-swaying convention centre where she spent her teenage years: "The music is useful for getting you to the building, and keeping you there long enough for recruitment purposes."
When Levin's publisher called last Thursday she expected to get the hurry-up on returning the last few page proofs before the 300 pages were committed to print. Instead she was told publishing director Patrick Gallagher had decided Hillsong represented too high a risk of suing for defamation. Gallagher declined to comment.
As far as Levin knows, the defamation laws haven't changed since Allen & Unwin's own lawyers gave her manuscript the tick of approval before Christmas. Then she had been advised to target the church as a whole, rather than individuals, because corporations can't sue.
Further legal advice has revealed a not-for-profit organisation can sue. The cruel irony for Levin is that while Hillsong is not-for-profit in the sense that it doesn't pay tax, it has annual revenues of about $50m, a good slice of which comes from song royalties and CD sales and is enough to keep a for-profit company in the black.
The back cover blurb was promising: "Tanya Levin uncovers the truths and untruths about the country's most ambitious, entrepreneurial and influential religious corporation."
For the record, Hillsong spokeswoman Maria Ieroianni said the church didn't lobby the publishers. Hillsong's general manager George Aghajanian did, however, write to Levin saying she was to refrain from attending any church events or entering the grounds.
Disclaimer:This news page is about groups, organizations or movements, which may have been called "cults" and/or "cult-like" in some way, shape or form. But not all groups called either "cults" or "cult-like" are harmful. Instead, they may be benign and generally defined as simply people intensely devoted to a person, place or thing. Therefore, the discussion or mention of a group, organization or person on this page, is not necessarily meant pejoratively. Readers are encouraged to read widely on a topic before forming an opinion. Never accept information from a single source at face value. This website only holds a small amount of information and should not be relied on as a complete source. For example, if you find older information, this should be weighed up against newer information as circumstances can change.